Abnormal Pap Test

What is an abnormal Pap test?

Pap test, or Pap smear, is part of a woman’s routine physical exam. It is the best way to prevent cervical cancer, because it can find cells on your cervix that could turn into cancer. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina.

When your doctor says that your Pap test was “abnormal,” it means that the test found some cells on your cervix that do not look normal. It does not mean that you have cancer. In fact, the chances that you have cancer are very small.

What causes an abnormal Pap test?

Most of the time, abnormal cell changes on the cervix are caused by certain types of human papillomavirus, or HPV. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection. Usually these cell changes go away on their own. But certain types of HPV have been linked to cervical cancer. That’s why it’s important for women to have regular Pap tests. It usually takes many years for cell changes in the cervix to turn into cancer.

Smoking or having an impaired immune system also may raise your chances of having cell changes in your cervix.

What will you need to do if you have an abnormal Pap test?

You will need more tests to find out if you have an infection or to find out how severe the cell changes are. These tests may include:

  • Colposcopy, a test to look at the vagina and cervix through a lighted magnifying tool.
  • An HPV test. Like a Pap test, an HPV test is done on a sample of cells taken from the cervix.
  • Another Pap test in 4 to 6 months.

A colposcopy is usually done before any treatment is given. During a colposcopy, the doctor also takes a small sample of tissue from the cervix so that it can be looked at under a microscope. This is called a biopsy.

Treatment, if any, will depend on whether your abnormal cell changes are mild, moderate, or severe. In moderate to severe cases, you may have treatment to destroy or remove the abnormal cells.


Dysmenorrhea is the medical term for the painful cramps that may occur immediately before or during the menstrual period.

  • Aching pain in the abdomen (Pain can be severe at times)
  • Feeling of pressure in the abdomen
  • Pain in the hips, lower back, and inner thighs
  • Upset stomach, sometimes with vomiting
  • Loose stools
  • Take aspirin or another pain reliever, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen (Note: For best relief, you must take these medications as soon as bleeding or cramping starts)
  • Place a heating pad or hot water bottle on your lower back or abdomen. Taking a warm bath may also provide some relief
  • Rest when needed
  • Avoid foods that contain caffeine and salt
  • Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol
  • Massage your lower back and abdomen

Women who exercise regularly often have less menstrual pain. To help prevent cramps, make exercise a part of your weekly routine.

If these steps do not relieve pain, your health care provider can order medications for you, including:

  • Ibuprofen (higher dose than is available over the counter) or other prescription pain relievers
  • Oral contraceptives (Women taking birth control pills have less menstrual pain.)

Facts to Help You Get Pregnant

  • Women whose body mass index (BMI) is above normal takes twice as long to get pregnant as those with a normal BMI.
  • Weight loss for those who are overweight or obese can improve fertility and pregnancy outcomes.
  • Weight loss of 5%-10% can dramatically improve ovulation and pregnancy rates.
  • Obesity is also a cause of infertility and low testosterone levels in men.
  • Being significantly underweight can also alter hormones of the reproductive organs and be a cause of infertility.
  • Generally, the highest chance of pregnancy is when intercourse occurs 1-2 days prior to ovulation.
  • If you have a regular 28-day cycle, count back 14 days from when you expect your next period to start.
  • Plan on having sex every other day around that time — say, days 12 and 14.
  • Keep in mind that having sex every day may decrease a man’s sperm count.
  • Your cycle may be longer or shorter, so using an online ovulation calculator may help identify the likely day.

There is a growing body of evidence that links environmental factors to decreases in fertility. If you want to boost your chances of getting pregnant, you may want to eat foods rich in folic acids, buy more organic foods and green products, avoid certain plastics (including plastic wrap), maintain a healthy body weight through diet and exercise, and avoid alcohol and caffeine.

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